Ballcourt Rites, Paradise, and the Origins of Power in Classic Veracruz

  • Rex Koontz

As this volume makes clear, origin places are much more than the spaces in which humans first appeared. The first instance of certain critical practices are often just as important as the creation of humans. For Mesoamericans in particular, the first fire, the first sunrise, and the first sacrifice are often major events in sacred narratives (Hamann, 2002). Tales of the origins of practice complement human creation tales by modeling behavior that is seen as integral to the functioning of human society (López Austin, 1996:17–18). This chapter explores one such originary act, that of ballcourt sacrifice, in a specific Ancient Mesoamerican setting—the Classic Veracruz site of El Tajín.

El Tajín was the capital of a regional culture that flourished in north central Veracruz (Mexico) from c. A.D. 650–1000. During that period, ballcourt construction and ballgame-related accouterments were a major facet of the regional culture. The center of El Tajín contained 11 masonry courts, and the regional culture produced large quantities of finely carved stone objects called yokes, palmas, and hachas that were closely associated with ballcourt ritualism. The imagery associated with these objects and courts emphasize the decapitation of a sacrificial victim in a ballcourt context.


Political Power Gulf Coast Central Panel Urban Core Regional Culture 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rex Koontz
    • 1
  1. 1.School of ArtUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA

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